Other city commission news
After more than a year of discussion, city commissioners Tuesday narrowly approved a new set of regulations guiding when industrial development may occur on prime farm ground.
But the contentious issue may soon end up the subject of a stalemate again, as it appears new members of the Douglas County Commission may reopen the issue.
On a 3-2 vote, commissioners approved a new industrial chapter for Horizon 2020 that leaves open the possibility of industrial development occurring on prime farm ground near the Lawrence Municipal Airport.
Neighbors near the airport had sought stricter language that would make it more difficult to develop the farm fields surrounding the airport.
“That soil is an asset to North Lawrence,” said Ted Boyle, president of the North Lawrence Improvement Association. “That is an important part of our drainage system.”
But members of the development community have said the area should be considered as possible site for a future business industrial park because it has excellent access to adjacent Interstate 70.
A majority of city commissioners said they wanted to leave open that possibility. Mayor Mike Dever and Commissioners Rob Chestnut and Sue Hack voted to approve the new chapter. Commissioners Mike Amyx and Boog Highberger both voted to add more language stressing the importance of preserving prime agricultural soils in the county.
The regulations apply countywide, but they became a hot topic after a development group proposed building a 144-acre business park near the airport. That project has failed to win City Commission approval, but a spokesman for the development group said the company still had interest in the project.
On Tuesday, Anthony Santaularia with Lawrence-based Diversified Concepts said his company was working to meet with people who have expressed concerns about the site to see if common ground could be found.
Tuesday night’s approval of the new regulations was set to be the final step for the new Horizon 2020 Industrial Chapter. The previous members of the Douglas County Commission already had approved the same set of regulations the city approved Tuesday. But city commissioners were told Tuesday that it is possible new members of the County Commission may reopen the issue. Newly elected County Commissioner Nancy Thellman made protecting the ground near the airport a focus of her campaign.
In order for the new regulations to be valid, the city and county commissions must approve the same set of regulations.